THE SLOGANS OF WAR
by Abdul Cader Asmal
There are some slogans we can all live with; there are others that are best retired; and there are those we cannot live without.
When close to two million Iraqis have been estimated to be refugees in the surrounding countries and a similar number to be internally displaced; when approximately 650,000 have been reported killed and scores of innocent bystanders slaughtered on a daily basis; when countless live in constant terror of impending death, and life has become one of abject misery and despair generating only mindless retribution, words such as ’ not on our watch’, ‘not in our name’ and ‘never again’ should not become empty slogans. They are words with an intense meaning - slogans we cannot live without, without sacrificing our very humanity.
Nothing exceeds the enormity of the catastrophe itself than the chutzpah of the neocon war-hawks who project any criticism of the war as an indictment of the troops.While the intelligence presented to President Bush may have been flawed, the notion that Iraq posed an imminent threat to the US was fabricated. Any pretext for war ended the day no WMD were found. On that day the US could have declared victory and returned the troops to their families. That is what supporting the troops should stand for. Instead the continued occupation served only to galvanize a wide range of Iraqis against the perceived oppressors, and to attract ‘jihadis’ from all over the Muslim world to ‘defend’ Islam from the ‘crusaders’. Thus ‘AlQaeda in Iraq’ is a monster created entirely by the war. That is not to say that there were no ‘jihadis’ before the invasion of Iraq - there were, and they were responsible for the unimaginable carnage of 911. But by the 911 Commission own’s Report they were a few thousand and totally containable. In making Bin Laden a larger than life demon Mr Bush was able to generate enough fear so as to be able to execute his so-called ‘global war on terror’ with virtually absolute power. It was this demonisation that made the face of Islam indistinguishable from that of the the ‘enemy’, scuttled the hunt for Bin Laden in favor of the ‘showdown with Saddam’, and duped the troops into believing that Iraq was responsible for 911 and for which they are now expected to make the ultimate sacrifice. In this regard the contrast between how the entire Muslim world has been held accountable for the mindless act of a self-appointed heretical cult leader, and the lack of culpability of a democratically elected leader of the most powerful nation on earth at whose beckoning Iraq has been reduced to rubble, is extraordinary.
While Mr Bush rambles on about ‘staying the course’, Congress, instead of confronting head-on the consequences of the fatally flawed decision to let Bin Laden off the hook, thereby magnifying the the strength of the ‘jihadis’, and making this country more vulnerable to terrorist attacks, dithers about troop withdrawal versus ‘surge’. It concocts meaningless ‘benchmarks’ that play for time. And it transfers blame on the Iraqi puppet government for not ‘doing enough’ to get the Iraqis out of the mess of being ‘shocked and awed’ into the dark ages. Congessional indecision does nothing to resolve the crisis for either the Iraqis or the troops, and serves only to embolden the radical neocons now plotting a ‘pre-emptive’ apocalyptic nuclear assault on Iran. It is increasingly evident that slogans such as ‘the surge’, ‘benchmarks’ and ’ stay the course’ are empty, add nothing to meaningful discourse, and are best retired. Ironically unless we as Muslims advance beyond the point of just condemning ‘terrorism’ but act towards eradicating it, the slogan,‘Islam is a religion of peace’ will also be retired into the bin of irrelevance, and the Muslim civilisation will become a footnote in history as has happened to the Soviet Union.
Not too long ago the mighty Soviet Union that had the potential to trigger global annihilation, was dismembered - not by empty rhetoric, hysterical fear-mongering or jingoistic saber-rattling, but by the power of words. Despite attempts to portay it as such Islam is no threat to world peace. Cells of nomadic jihadis camped in Westen outposts may disturb our sense of security and well-being and may from time to time wreak pockets of mayhem. As unsettling as these are they in no way threaten our American values, systems or infrastructure. On the eve of the invasion of Iraq, we as Americans and Muslims wrote,‘While it might appear unpatriotic for us to challenge the drumbeat to war, it would be an act not only of disobedience to God but treason against our own country to fail to express our concerns’ (Boston Globe 2/5/03).Now more than ever for love of God and country as our nation and our religion are set on collision course we cannot remain silent ‘on our watch’. Especially when we know that Americans want peace and Muslims need to come in from the cold. And we also know that the overwhelming majority of Muslims would rather than having to tune into the signals of jihadi- binladenism, prefer to scan the VOA seeking out the power of words - words that speak of ‘rapprochement’, ‘peristoika’ and ‘glasnost’- slogans we can all live with.
Abdul Cader Asmal is Past President of Islamic Council of New England, and Past President Islamic Center of Boston